This month we’re focusing on how to take care of ourselves...
17 February 2019| Last updated on 18 February 2019
Being a parent makes this doubly hard...
Especially as we target so much time and energy on our children and don’t always take steps to meet our own needs. Establishing good sleep habits is one area that is often neglected. Sleep impacts overall health, cognitive ability, and temperament for both children and adults alike.
The key to US getting enough sleep is helping our children sleep well. The two main things to consider are (1) sleep training and (2) bedtime routines. Once we master these two areas then our little ones will sleep well and so will we.
Getting up numerous times to tend to your fussy or crying child isn’t helping you or your child get a good night’s rest. Once a baby has reached 6 months-old they are ready to be introduced to some sort of routine to get them to sleep on a schedule.
Sleep training involves teaching your child to sleep through the night. Some methods involve tears (yours as well as your baby’s) and a great deal of tough love, but the main goal is to help your little one learn to fall asleep on their own and to soothe themselves back to sleep if they wake up.
Self-soothing means that your child is not dependent on a pacifier, bottle, breast or parent rocking them back to sleep. Sleep training usually takes 3 to 4 nights and parents who try the approach of letting their “child cry it out” find that the crying diminishes steadily over the week.
Sleep training requires changes for both baby and you but once this difficult week is over the reward is significant!
While it is best to sleep train your child while they are still very young, you may need to train or re-train an older child. If you have a 2 or 3-year-old who is waking up in the night or who is still in your bed, then it is time for them to sleep independently and to fall asleep on their own.
Older children may require more time to adjust to this change, but it is important to remain firm and consistent until they learn good sleep habits.
The time you spend helping your little one relax and get ready for bed is the perfect moment in your day to connect with them, making bedtime a very meaningful time of the day.
The calmer your child is, the more likely they will go to bed easily and fall asleep quickly. Your child will be more relaxed if they know what is coming next, so a predictable and consistent routine is crucial to a successful bedtime.
Stick to this routine as best as you can, even when you are not at home or when grandparents/other family are visiting, as it can make it easier for your child to settle down in new or unfamiliar surroundings.
The sooner you establish a bedtime routine the better!
When your child is as young as 6 to 8 weeks old, start setting the same pattern every night and they will appreciate the consistency and predictability. It will also help you in your daily planning if you know to set aside 45-60 minutes in the evening as a special time for you and your child.
9 ways to get a good sleep routine
- Give your child a warning when bedtime is approaching: ‘The bedtime train will be coming soon. Choo-choo!’
- Set up a relaxing environment by having a quiet, dark, cool room with no LED lights. “White noise” can also be effective to soothe a young child
- Set bedtimes for the same time every night and adjust naps to be early enough that they don’t impact bedtime
- Give your child a light snack, brush their teeth and have them use the toilet/put on a clean diaper
- Give your child a bath or massage to help them relax
- Talk and sing to your child as your voice is very soothing to them
- Read a bedtime story and give older children a few minutes of quiet play in their room
- Say goodnight with hugs and kisses and LEAVE your child to soothe themselves to sleep (drowsy but still awake)
- Keep in mind that your child shouldn’t have any screen time for at least one hour before bed as it acts as a stimulant and will keep them awake.
Now that your child is in bed and sleeping through the night you can spend time with your partner, relax, read, get organized and get yourself to bed early - take advantage of the peace and quiet!